A Catholic school is accused of rejecting admission to the children of a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.
Reverend Mike Oenbrink, a pastor at St. Francis Catholic School, in South Carolina, is alleged to have told two mothers their kids could not be accepted by the institution because they were “homosexual.”
In a phone conversation with one of the mothers, Oenbrink allegedly said: “Your children have been denied because you’re homosexual.
“If we admit your children, it will send a bad message to the other families.”
The move sparked outrage from the local community of Hilton Head Island, according to the Island Packet .
The couple sent applications for their children in March.
While not Catholic themselves, they had been encouraged by friends to apply at St. Francis.
After receiving a rejection email, one of the mothers called to inquire about the refusal in more detail. This is when she learned her kids’ application had been rejected because of her relationship .
“My children are being banned because of who I am,” she said. “This is discrimination. Why punish my children for my choices?” St. Francis by the Sea, Hilton Head Island (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Farragutful) According to Oenbrink, the children were refused because of the fact the mothers were in a same-sex marriage, rather than just their sexual orientation .
“We reaffirm the dignity of all human beings, regardless of their beliefs. At the same time, our Catholic schools exist not only to promote academic excellence, but also to build a community of faith and prayer,” Oenbrink said in a statement. “Based on Biblical and traditional teachings , we believe that God wills marriage to be a vowed, loving union between a man and a woman,” he added. “We celebrate such a union as a Sacrament and, after prayerful deliberation, I reserve the right to admit to our parish school families which actively support that belief.”
The couple – who chose to keep their identity hidden to protect themselves and their children from harassment – married in 2009.
When they toured the school in early March, they say they asked asked St. Francis’ principal, Brian Pope, if their marital status would be a problem and were assured by Pope that it wouldn’t be an issue. Their children shadowed classes at the school on several occasions as part of the application process. They fulfilled all application requirements, including immunisation records, birth certificates and transcripts, which is why the refusal came as a shock.
Some parents of students at St. Francis voiced their disagreement with Oenbrink’s decision.
“The pope’s own words preach of inclusivity ,” Chris Feltner, a friend of the couple said. “That’s what society needs more of. The more barriers we put up between people, the more division we have.”
According to the Charlotte Diocese, such decisions are completely up to local pastors.
“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston does not currently have a diocesan-wide policy in place when same-sex couples wish to enrol their child in our schools,” said director of media relations for the diocese, Maria Aselage. “Unless there should be a change in the diocesan approach, the decision of enrolling a child will remain up to the pastors of parish schools.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (Stefan Postles/Getty) The Australian government has rejected calls to provide guarantees that gay asylum seekers will not be sent back to countries where they face the death penalty.
MPs from the opposition Labor Party have called on the government to introduce safeguards for LGBT people in the asylum system, many of whom have been forced to flee countries where they face torture, violence, persecution or death.
However the government claims that changes to make the system less hostile towards LGBT people would lead to a risk of abuse.
According to Daily Mail Australia , a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said: “Offering blanket protection to a group of individuals has the potential to encourage large numbers of un-meritorious applications from those who would seek to abuse the protection program to extend their stay in Australia.
“This would risk reducing public confidence in Australia’s humanitarian program and redirect resources from those applicants truly in need of protection.” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (Stefan Postles/Getty) The claim comes amid debate over a resolution submitted to the Australian Labor Party’s national conference.
If passed, the policy would automatically safeguard the rights of LGBT+ asylum seekers who come from countries that outlaw homosexuality- rather than forcing them to justify their fears of persecution.
The Department of Home Affairs is headed up by Peter Dutton, a strong opponent of LGBT rights. Australia’s Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre (Scott Fisher/Getty) Dutton attracted controversy during the country’s 2017 vote on equal marriage , when he criticised rapper Macklemore for performing gay anthem ‘Same Love’ at a National Rugby League final.
He said at the time: “I don’t think Australian parents taking kids to the footy want political messages down their throat.
“I think sporting events and workplaces are totally the wrong places for these political messages.
“I am into free speech – presumably two songs should be played, one for gay marriage and one against gay marriage.”
The politician did not identify what pop song opposing gay marriage he would like to be played. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (Stefan Postles/Getty) Dutton was also accused of casual homophobia when he told a gay business exec to “stick to knitting” rather than back equality.
He had lashed out at gay Qantas CEO Alan Joyce after the business leader signed a letter in support of equal marriage.
Dutton said: “Mr Joyce is an exceptional CEO… but if he has a particular view on any issue it should be expressed as an individual.
“It is unacceptable that people would use companies and the money of publicly listed companies to throw their weight around.
“I’d prefer publicly listed companies stick to their knitting and that is delivering the services for their customers and providing a return for their shareholders.”
(penelopy mansell/facebook) A transgender woman has been turned away from a women’s gym in New Zealand – despite having a birth certificate showing her gender.
On May 28, Penelopy Mansell went to Revive Fitness gym in the country’s capital, Wellington, expecting to be given the tour and told why she should join.
Instead, she was refused entry to the gym, with a staff member informing her that trans women were banned unless they had undergone confirmation surgery. (penelopy mansell/facebook) Related: Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard says she will ‘likely’ never compete again after horrific injury
Mansell, 49, has so far been unable to get surgery, as the waiting list for the government’s publicly funded operations can leave trans people kicking their heels for decades.
She pleaded with staff, even showing them her the birth certificate – which identifies her as a woman – but they would not relent. (penelopy mansell/facebook) Writing on Facebook, she said: “ONLY allowed in (for free tour) AFTER I GET THE OP!!
“I’ll just wait 60+ years then…?”
Mansell added that she “was told ‘it’s company policy that all trans people have a medical confirmed srs (sex reassignment) op before being allowed in the GYM.’”
She felt let down by the lack of impact which government forms had had on the situation, saying: “Clearly the birth deaths dept and M.I.A don’t hold any power to confirm my gender on legal documents.” (penelopy mansell/facebook) Mansell added that two years after starting her legal transition, “I’m still discriminated [against] every day.”
Speaking to NZ Herald , she said she would feel “safer” in a women-only gym.
“I don’t want to have to use the men’s facilities in a regular gym,” she added.
When she was blocked from entering Mansell said it was simply “discrimination. (penelopy mansell/facebook) “She wouldn’t talk to me about anything else. She wouldn’t even give me the tour.”
Revive Fitness’s area manager, Cherie Cooper, apologised for the incident and acknowledged there were issues with the company’s rules.
On Facebook, she wrote: “We would firstly like to apologise for any harm our current policy has caused.
“The policy has been in place for a long time, but we acknowledge that this is no defence, and however unintentional it may have been we accept that it may be hurtful to those who are excluded by it.
“We know that this is a sensitive matter, and to that end as a business we are urgently reaching out to organisations within the Wellington GLBTI community for guidance and advice to review our policy and ensure that our gyms are a safe and comfortable environment, and an inclusive and understanding community for all women,” she added.
“We are happy to engage, listen and communicate with all interested parties, and to keep them updated on the process from here.”
Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete to compete for New Zealand, made history at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April by taking part in the 90kg-plus category despite an anti-trans backlash. (Alex Pantling/Getty) She was in pole position for a gold medal – until disaster struck.
Despite leading the field with her first lift of 120kg, she went for a Games-record 132kg lift on her final attempt – but her arm buckled dramatically, and she had to withdraw.
Gina Miller (Dan Kitwood/Getty) Influential lawyer and prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller knows what it’s like to receive hateful abuse every single day.
A long-time campaigner for inclusivity and social justice, Miller gained a reputation as a divisive figure in 2016 when she launched a legal challenge that forced the government to hold a vote in Parliament on its decision to leave the European Union.
As a prominent figure who has criticised Brexit and rising intolerance in the UK, Miller has become an all-purpose ‘bogeywoman in some parts of the right-wing press.
Speaking at The Economist ‘s Pride and Prejudice event on Thursday (May 24), Miller read out some of the vile barrage of message she continues to receive nearly two years after the Brexit vote.
One message said: “Hitler only killed 3 million people, Gina Miller has pissed off 17.4 million.”
Another stated: “Meghan Markle has been diluted to white, she’s beautiful and she’s f**kable. You are black, old, and should be ripped into obedience.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Miller opened up about what it’s like to face frequently-racist and sexist abuse every day. Gina Miller (Leon Neal/Getty) She said: “I think in years we’ll look back… social scientists need to look at this. They have to tackle whether it was always there under the surface. Too many people think now it’s acceptable.
“I’m very confident in who I am, but that’s because of years of building up my strength, my resilience, and my invisible armour.
“You have to surround yourself with love. I have my children, my husband, my family. I let myself be soft with them, because if you’re going to be tough in public, you can’t carry that on forever.
“You have to have somewhere to go to that’s full of love and kindness. It’s important that you can’t let voices of hate trump your own. Their energy fuels mine, their negative energy fuels my positive energy. It keeps me going because I wake up every day and think, I’m not going to let this happen.”
Asked if she reports the messages as hate crimes, she adds: ” I do. I have to…. not only do I report them, I think it’s important that you report the small stuff.
“If you don’t, then it suddenly becomes much bigger, it’s much more difficult to call out, and it becomes much more serious.
“You should confront people whenever you feel uncomfortable. There was a Viscount who took out a £5,000 bounty to have me killed.
“People said to me, ‘You can’t take him to court,’ but I said, I’m going to – you can’t have that, I’m going to call it out.” “In all places – in places of work, in society – if you feel you’re being attacked or think someone’s saying something under their breath about your sexuality, the way you look or your ethnicity – you need to confront them.
“They’re emboldened by social media, but the thing is with bullies, they’re not used to being confronted.”
Miller notes a rapid shift in tone in public discourse – referencing a much-criticised Daily Mail headline about an “openly gay” judge who ruled on Brexit, which was derided by some as a homophobic dog whistle. She said: “There’s also been a real shift in the bias of press. The print media’s behaving in a very extreme way as well, the way they described me and the judges in the case.
“And the politicians are not saying this is unacceptable.
“You’ve got the media behaving in an extreme way, you’ve got social media, and you’ve got politicians at the top who are not calling it out.
“It’s like a naughty child – the more they get away with, the naughtier they’ll be.”
For all the abuse Miller received over her anti-Brexit campaigning, her most prominent intervention has proved ineffective at altering the country’s course.
Although a court ruled in favour of her challenge to secure a vote in Parliament on the triggering of Article 50, MPs voted to pass an unamended bill – resisting amendments to guarantee residency to EU citizens in the UK, or to ensure a final vote on the eventual Brexit deal in Parliament.
But Miller is resolute that a change of course on Brexit could come.
She told PinkNews: “It’s late in the day but people are waking up to challenges that are facing them, on both sides. It’s no longer about leave or remain, it’s about how do we execute this?
“It’s about limiting damage, and they are waking up. The problem is, they’ve painted themselves into a corner. How do we get out of the corner?
“I think we’ll end up seeing either another general election, or another final vote. I think we’ll have another vote of some form, because it’s the only way for them to get themselves out of the corner.
“What I worry about is were we to leave with a hard Brexit, and we end up with a government with more of a right-wing agenda, actually we could see individual rights reducing.” Gina Miller (Dan Kitwood/Getty) Divides on Brexit do not preclude the campaigner from expressing sympathy to Shahmir Sanni , a former Vote Leave campaigner who alleges that he was outed by the office of the Prime Minister after going public about alleged irregularities in the pro-Brexit campaign group.
Miller said: “There is absolutely no way a government should be involved in blackmailing someone. It was pure blackmail.
“There are certain principles you have to adhere to when you hold office, and rather than ticking them, this government seems to be crossing them off.
“One of them is behaving with integrity, and what they did to that young man was just unforgivable. Sexuality has nothing to do with standing up for what you believe in. It’s got nothing to do with it.”
Miller, born in Guyana and of Indian descent, adds that the UK should be using its unique role to emphasise LGBT equality and human rights across the Commonwealth.
She told PinkNews: “There is a worrying lack of advancement on human rights in many Commonwealth countries, and in some countries it’s actually going backwards.
“In India, in Modi’s government, there are 298 MPs in his government and none of them are Muslim. There is a real rise again of Hindu against Muslim that we haven’t seen since before India became independent.
“Britain should be the shining light for all countries – but especially for Commonwealth countries.
“At the Commonwealth summit, I don’t think it was pushed hard enough that they should be looking at their laws on gay rights, abortion, social justice, access to law – all these things should be pushed by us to those countries.”
She added: “One of the things I’d say is, if you are going to advocate change you have to find champions and leaders and make them the change-makers. Then you have to protect them. You cannot be a delicate flower when you are a change-maker.”
Miller’s style of liberalism has few remaining homes in the Western world, with a resurgence of far-right politics.
She said: “I think we’ve become a bit lazy. Most of the countries in the Western world where we’re seeing society rocking quite violently are based on the same economic model and the same model of capitalism.
“You have to ask, is it capitalism that has not worked? It’s created sinkhole societies, and my biggest advocacy is to move the dial from pure capitalism to responsible capitalism, moving the dial from a single profit line to people, profit and planet.
“That is actually how we change things and create a more equal society.” Miller continued: “I think we’re moving towards autocracy in many countries, and that will diminish human rights.
“That’s why we have to fight, and that’s a real fight. There are much bigger fights than just individual governments or movements.
“There are three big issues [today], the diminishing of rights, the advancement of AI, and the third one is the ageing of our population.”
Miller was at The Economist ‘s conference, which has a focus on LGBT activism and business, to share lessons from her own decades of activism and business with attendees.
“In all my businesses I’ve operated a flat structure so that we don’t have that hierarchy,” she said of her approach to diversity in her own investment business.
“By staying close to the people working for me, by knowing about their lives, I can actually appreciate the pressures they’re under and the challenges.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to come from a different background and fit into a very city organisation.
“The second thing I do is, I don’t look at CVs in the way other people do. I look for skills, not qualifications, because everybody’s reached a certain level to get to the interview in the first place.“What I’m interested in is their story of how they got there – did they struggle, did they save up their pocket money when they were 14 years old? I want to know if they have the personality and the skills that I value in my business, not just qualifications.”
Friends and campaigners are fighting to save a 22-year-old Ugandan lesbian who will deported in a matter of hours to the country where it is illegal for her to be gay.
Gloria Namuzungu came to the UK as an asylum seeker to flee persecution in her home nation because of her sexuality.
Settling in Leeds and volunteering for a local eco cafe, Namuzungu had her life turned upside down when she was deported to Yarls Wood on May 18. Now campaigners are protesting the Qatar Airways desk in Harrods, London, to ensure that the vulnerable woman will not be sent back to the country.
“Gloria is an active member of the Leeds community. She is a much loved and hard-working volunteer at the Rainbow Junktion Pay as you feel community café who have expressed their distress and concern for her safety,” anti-immigration group Leeds No Borders told PinkNews, who are protesting at the event at 12.30pm.
“Gloria is a much loved part of our team at the cafe, her smile lights up the kitchen and we want her back,” her former Cafe Manager at Rainbow Junk-tion added.
On May 22, she was told she would be returning to Uganda, where she faces violence, imprisonment and ostracisation. Leeds No Borders claim that the 22-year-old was given less than 72 hours to fight her deportation notice, which is against Home Office protocol.
Previously using the name G to protect her identity, Namuzungu has now disclosed her full name so she can more readily fight the case. “This isn’t an isolated case and there are also two other women on the same flight being deported to the Philippines who don’t have as much community support and are equally terrified,” Namuzungu’s friend Emily Jennings told PinkNews.
“We will do everything possible to keep resisting this government’s institutionally racist hostile environment agenda and demand that Qatar Airlines refuses to fly all three women. No-one is illegal,” she added.
Detained for a matter of four days in Yarls Wood before she received her deportation notice, Namuzungu’s friends, colleagues and campaigners are arguing that the young woman hasn’t been given enough time to fight her case. LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 08: A women’s rights demonstrator holds a placard relating to the Yarls’ Wood hunger strike (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images) “The government speaks proudly of its record on LGBT equality yet still routinely send LGBT people back to countries where they face abuse and persecution,” said a spokesperson for Movement for Justice.
“G is not alone, there are LGBT people fighting for their lives in detention centres right across the UK. We know of another lesbian facing deportation on a charter flight to Nigeria tomorrow.”
“LGBT asylum seekers come up against a racist system that treats everyone as if they are liars. If the governments stated commitment to LGBT rights is to be more than empty words G must stay,” they added.
If she returns to Uganda, Namuzungu could face imprisonment, violence and ostracisation from society because of her sexuality.
The climate is hostile for LGBT+ Ugandans. In April, Ugandan MPs vied to reintroduce anti-homosexuality law that could imprison gay people for life .
Declaring that homosexuality is “un-African”, MPs tabled the motion, telling an Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Summit in March that Uganda would withdraw from the union if it endorsed LGBT rights in any way. (Getty) Corrective rape is still used to “convert” gay, bi and lesbian Ugandans in the country.
A spotlight has been shone on the government’s hostile immigration policy since the unravelling of the Windrush Scandal.
A top immigration lawyer remarked that the Home Office rely on “gay stereotypes” in order to classify an asylum-seeking hopeful’s sexuality .
“There is also an over-emphasis, in refusal letters, of the applicants’ alleged failure to deal with feelings about sexuality or feelings of attraction towards the same sex,” wrote the lawyer.
“We should not allow our clients to be subjected to intrusive and humiliating questions about their sexual lives.”
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.
A petition to protest the decision can be signed here .
(Pexels and coolrissian/twitter) Somehow, we still live in a world where it’s controversial to say that transgender people’s gender identities are valid.
Despite a scientific study showing that trans people are born that way , many dispute the existence of anyone who’s not cisgender.
Trans people suffer discrimination all over the world. In the US, at least 11 trans people have been killed this year , after a year which saw the highest number of trans killings – 28 – on record. (HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images) And if that wasn’t enough, trans people often face obstacles while simply trying to assert their basic humanity.
On May 28, Penelopy Mansell went to Revive Fitness gym in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, expecting to be given the tour and told why she should join.
Instead, she was refused entry to the gym , with a staff member informing her that trans women were banned unless they had undergone confirmation surgery.
As one excellent meme parodied earlier this month , cisgender people often react poorly when faced with a proud trans person. (amyrmarv/twitter) We’ve all seen Piers Morgan, for instance, continue his year-long rampage against trans people , claiming in April that genderfluid people were “damaging to society.”
But somehow, it’s even worse when someone else in the LGBT community leaps on the anti-trans bandwagon.
One oppressed person hitting out at another – it cuts a little deeper. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty) A tweet slamming queer people who do just this has gone viral, with more than 175,000 people retweeting and liking the post. Its creator, who calls themselves ‘they-man’ on Twitter – playing off 80s superhero He-Man, we assume – wrote that “every lgb person who doesn’t advocate for the t, who wants to drop it from the acronym, can get the f**k outta this community.
They continued: “lgbt pride was started by trans women of colour and y’all have the audacity to be transphobic? nah f**k off mate.” (coolrissian/twitter) In the comments, they explained that “you have to remember that terminology for trans people and even bisexual, pansexual etc people is really recent.
“In the past, and even now, there was no understanding of the difference between transgender people and those who are attracted to the same gender.
“It wasn’t understood that one is about gender and the other sexuality,” they added. “There’s HUGE overlap there. (coolrissian/twitter) “Trans people were considered ‘more wrong’ than gay people, an extension of the same ‘problem.’ the oppression was messy and overlapped.”
They pointed out, with justification, that “no homophobe ever stopped beating on a trans person bc the victim said they’re actually straight.
“The lgbt community is a community bc of shared goals and EXPERIENCES. oppression isn’t cut and dry. it’s messy and it always punches down. that’s why we’re in this together.”
Amen to that.
Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis just got married to his girlfriend, lifestyle blogger Angela Jones in Italy, on Sunday.
Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the eight-film series, shared the news with his fans on Instagram and Twitter. He joked about missing an Arctic Monkeys gig for his own wedding. “Not only did I miss Arctic Monkeys in LA but they were performing in Italy at the same time we were there and my wife made me get married instead,” he wrote.
The star said he was “fuming,” but judging by the pictures, he seemed to enjoy his wife’s company more than he would have Alex Turner’s.
The pair tied the knot at the Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino. They reportedly met at a Wizarding World of Harry Potter event in Orlando, Florida, in January 2016 but only began dating in July that year after Jones finalised her divorce from her first marriage.
Lewis is believed to have proposed in Paris, by the Eiffel Tower, four months later. Attitude Magazine Lewis made a splash in 2015 when he appeared shirtless on the cover of LGBT publication Attitude magazine’s swimwear and underwear issue.
While filming the role of Neville in Harry Potter , the actor’s body was covered with prosthetics so that he would suit the character’s portly description better. Lewis’ prosthetics-free body first turned heads at the 2011 premiere of the last Harry Potter film of the franchise, Deathly Hallows Part 2 .
“And then obviously a lot of attention focused on it, which I didn’t expect at all. I’ve never considered myself to be good-looking at all. Just average,” Lewis told Attitude in 2015.
The cover blew up on internet as fans discovered that Neville was all grown up.
“Longbottom” became an expression to describe when a character grows up and becomes more attractive.
“I’ve seen enough of me in pants to last a lifetime,” he later told the Evening Standard .
Lewis starred in ITV’s drama Girlfriends earlier this year, where he played a character recently released from prison and sporting a ankle tag.
On the show, he reunited with Harry Potter stars Zoë Wanamaker, who played Mrs Hooch, Hogwarts’ flying instructor, in the movies, and Miranda Richardson, who played nosy journalist Rita Skeeter.
The mini-reunion amused fans of both the show and the movies. Lewis also enjoyed an impromptu reunion with two others of this Harry Potter co-stars last month. He met with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) at a Wizarding World event in May.
Ian McKellen (Getty) Ian McKellen has remarked on the “pity” that Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will not be an explicitly gay character .
Dumbledore, who will be played by shamed actor Johnny Depp, will not make any allusions to his sexuality in the film installment.
Although the actor and LGBT+ rights advocate remarked that her decision is frustrating, he is unsurprised. Sir Ian McKellen at the Oxford Union (Photo: OxfordUnion/Youtube) “‘Isn’t he?” McKellen responded to the news in an interview with Time Out .
“That’s a pity. Well, nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they? They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world,” McKellen told the publication .
“Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history. Gay men don’t exist. “Gods and Monsters” , I think, was the beginning of Hollywood admitting that there were gay people knocking around, even though half of Hollywood is gay,’” he added. (Getty) In spite of the film’s disappointing decision – after all, J.K. Rowling announced the professor’s sexuality back in 2007 – McKellen said the industry is looking up for young openly LGBT+ actors. “Young actors in London now have all been out for years. That’s the future,” he told the publication.
“When I go to schools to talk about gay rights, the kids can’t believe it. It’s not an issue for them,” he added. Jude Law as Dumbledore (Warner Bros) Director David Yates attempted to justify the decision to straightwash Dumbledore back in January.
He said that fans are already “aware” of Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald.
“But I think all the fans are aware of that,” Yates continued, speaking to Entertainment Weekly. “He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology, and each other.” LGBT representation in major studio releases decreased significantly in 2017 According to the research, in 2017 only 14 major studio releases had LGBTQ characters, making up only 12.8 percent of films.
This is a 5.6 percent decrease within one year, as LGBT characters were included in 18.4 percent of major films released in 2016.
A gay man says he was refused service at one of the UK’s biggest tattoo studios – because he is HIV-positive.
George Westwood, a 19-year-old Sociology student at the University of Birmingham had gone to the Vida Loca studio in Bolton, Greater Manchester, to get a tattoo representing his journey with HIV.
The student told the business about his HIV status as a courtesy after paying his deposit, only for them to refuse to serve him because of it.
Although his tattooist apologised, she said that her manager would not let her carry out the procedure – and that he would have to collect his deposit back.
Westwood told PinkNews: “I rang them and told them about my status and the tattoo artist said she wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to do it, so she would speak to her boss.
“I received a phone call [on May 26] to say, ‘No, we can’t do it.’ I wasn’t offered any explanation and [told] that I should just go and collect my deposit.”
The 19-year-old student was left shocked and upset at the refusal. George Westwood was diagnosed in February (Credit: George Westwood) “I was just expecting a ‘thanks for letting us know,’ I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. But I got a completely different response to what I expected.
“It did upset me, it did shock me – I nearly cried at work.”
He added: “I feel like I’ve made so much progress in such a short space of time, and it feels like all that progress has been thrown back in my face.”
Westwood says that the incident has highlighted why he wants to raise awareness around the condition.
He said: “It’s something so trivial – it just doesn’t need to happen.
“People need to think about and realise how much progress we [HIV-positive people] have made. It’s not what people think it is, and it’s definitely not what it used to be and people living with it do lead healthy normal lives.”
Now, Westwood hopes that talking about his illness will challenge the misconceptions around it and wants to emphasise that the condition cannot be passed on if effectively treated.
In response to a complaint made by Westwood, Vida Loca tattoo studio said: “We have to take into consideration the risks involved with blood transfer as we are using needles that have to be disposed of.”
“In the last month alone, we’ve had accidents where tattooists have caught themselves with used needles, so we have to think about the risk involved and as careful as hygienic as we are accidents still happen. Hope this explains why we cannot go ahead with this tattoo,” the response, which PinkNews has seen, continued.
However, Dr Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “There’s absolutely no reason to treat someone living with HIV who wants a tattoo any differently. Although HIV can be transmitted through shared needles, there are no documented cases of HIV transmission due to tattooing. Tattoo enthusiasts at 2013 Sydney Tattoo Body Art Expo (Getty) “Any reputable tattoo parlour should already be taking precautions to protect their customers against infections, including using fully sterilised equipment and single-use, disposable needles.”
According to the health section of its website, this is the procedure that the studio complies with.
Under the 2010 Equalities Act, it could be illegal in some cases for a business to not serve someone with HIV under the same terms as someone without the disease.
In an email statement to PinkNews, Daniel Watson, owner of the Vida Loca tattoo shop, said: “It’s the artist’s choice who they do or don’t tattoo, and in this circumstance I fully support her decision.
“There are many factors which led her to this decision. One of them mainly being we are not covered by our insurance to tattoo someone with HIV. Then the risk of her catching herself with the needle during or after the procedure. Or another member of the staff that cleans down the station catching themselves with the infected needle.
“There is also risk for the customer receiving the tattoo. If their immune system is low due to the treatment they will be receiving the chance of infection would also be very high. Why risk all this just so one person could get a tattoo.”
Westwood was diagnosed with the disease in February, after being referred to a clinic when a self-testing kit came back positive. “It’s been quite an emotional journey quite challenging,” he said.
“But I’ve come out of it a stronger person, now I’m just trying to raise awareness and educate people.
“Even in the gay community there’s a massive taboo about HIV, we don’t talk about it, we don’t touch it.” However, Westwood says he is still going to get a tattoo. It will be a line tattoo of a sunrise over the sea to signify new horizons and the journey he has been on with HIV.
In March, PinkNews reported of a HIV-positive man who was refused service at a dentist’s practice in the East Midlands.
The man launched a funding appeal to take legal action against the practise.
The practice apologised and has since changed its policy on treating HIV-positive patients.
Stigma against the illness is common, with the Terence Higgins Trust estimating that one in five Brits would not wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, due to fear others would think negatively of them.
(Paul Grace) The founder of PinkNews and one of the main campaign groups for equal marriage in the UK has married his fiance in a wonderful ceremony.
PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen and Dr Anthony James married on Sunday surrounded by more than 100 of their family and friends.
Cohen is best known for his role at PinkNews, as well as his work as the creator of Out4Marriage, a cross-party and cross-media group which succeeded in its aim of bringing equal marriage to England and Wales. (Paul Grace) Out4Marriage started in 2012 after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government began a consultation on marriage equality in the UK.
The Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013, paving the way for couples to marry in England and Wales from March 29, 2014. (Paul Grace) Cohen and James’ wedding was witnessed by Baroness Lynne Featherstone, the originator and architect of the law which brought same-sex marriage to England and Wales. As a junior minister in the coalition government, Featherstone championed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, ensuring that lesbian and gay couples in the UK won the right to wed. (Paul Grace) The marriage was also witnessed by Subodh Rathod, who along with his husband Niranjan Kamatkar were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in the country. (Paul Grace) The happy couple celebrated with pride umbrellas and a rainbow love train in front of delighted guests.
The civil marriage ceremony, which took place before the Jewish portion of the wedding, included a reading of the ruling – written by Justice Anthony Kennedy – which legalised same-sex marriage in the US in 2015.
The judge wrote: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. (Paul Grace) “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.
It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves.
“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
His ruling ended with the immortal phrase: “It is so ordered.”